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Monday, August 29, 2016

An Intentional and Purposeful Life (and other devotions)

An Intentional and Purposeful Life

I call this influence intentional Christian living. By that I mean we are living out the guidelines and commands of the Scripture, intentionally and purposefully. Spiritual lethargy results in a Christian lifestyle that is haphazard and lazy; our commitment as Christians is to live a lifestyle that models Christ. We are not to look like or act like other people; rather, we are to look like Christ. We are to act like Christ. We are to do the things that Christ would do in the power and demonstration of the Holy Spirit.

The intentional Christian life is powered by the Holy Spirit and motivates us into a lifestyle contrary to everything around us in our culture. We are, as a former generation taught, a separated people; we are separated from the world unto God. 

~A. W. Tozer~

Today's Reading: Micah 6Revelation 13

Today’s Thoughts: Who is Like Our God?

Who is a God like You, Pardoning iniquity And passing over the transgression of the remnant of His heritage? He does not retain His anger forever, Because He delights in mercy. He will again have compassion on us, And will subdue our iniquities. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea. -   Micah 7:18-19 

Have you ever known anyone who truly delights in mercy? Think about it for a moment. How many of us really enjoy extending mercy to others? I am not talking about the kind of mercy that we give in times of need or extend to someone because we feel sorry for them. I am talking about the kind of mercy that the Lord extends to us on a continual basis. And not only does the Lord grant us this mercy, but also the Bible says He loves to do it. Isaiah 30:18 says the Lord waits (or longs) to be gracious to us. Sometimes we need to be reminded of how good God is to us. There is no one like our God.

We also need to be reminded of something else concerning our awesome God: He pardons our iniquities and casts our sins into the depths of the sea. He remembers them no more (Isaiah 43:25). So often, we are the ones who hold on to our sins, not God. We are the ones who condemn ourselves, not God. We are the ones who judge ourselves harshly, not God. And, we are the ones who cannot forgive ourselves, but God does. Jesus says that we are to come to His throne of grace with boldness and to take His mercy with the love to which it is extended to us. Jesus died for us so that we may live in freedom, knowing that all of our sins are forgiven, even the ones we have yet to commit.

To our friends, We pray that today can be a new day for you. We pray that you will accept God's mercy and grace with open arms. We pray that you, in turn, will begin to delight in doing the same for others. We pray that you will fall in love with this awesome God who truly does delight in forgiving all of your sins and waits just to be kind and gracious to you. Ask the Lord to open your heart to receive His mercy and take hold of all that He has for you.

~Daily Disciples Devotional~


Today, I want to highlight for you the third area where the devil will seek to cause you to fail when you are on the verge of a breakthrough.  It is found in Matthew 4:8-11,
Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory.  And he said to Him, "All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me."  Then Jesus said to him, "Away with you, Satan!  For it is written, ‘You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve.'"  Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him.
If you think about it, the devil offered Jesus exactly what He had come to this world to obtain.  Jesus came to win the kingdoms of this world to our God.
And the devil is saying, "Hey, You can take a shortcut.  I will give You what You want.  You don't have to do it God's way.  You may have to compromise Your integrity, but think of how quickly You will succeed!  You can even avoid the whole sacrifice thing!  You don't have to do it God's way."
Listen, anytime God has set a goal for you, and you are going to obtain something, the devil will always come and try to get you to compromise and offer you substitutes.
He will tempt you by saying things like, "You can get what you want without living by all those narrow, restrictive rules that God puts on people's lives.  You can be dishonest; you can be unfaithful; you can compromise; and you can still be blessed, and you can still be happy."
Do not believe him for a moment.  His way of compromise leads only to ruin!

~Bayless Conley~

The Lord’s angelic messenger came back again, touched him, and said, “Get up and eat, for otherwise you won’t be able to make the journey.”—1 Kgs 19:7
And what did God do with His tired servant? Gave him something good to eat, and put him to sleep. Elijah had done splendid work, and had run alongside of the chariot in his excitement, and it had been too much for his physical strength, and the reaction had come on, and he was depressed. The physical needed to be cared for. What many people want is sleep, and the physical ailment attended to. There are grand men and women who get where Elijah was—under the juniper tree! and it comes very soothingly to such to hear the words of the Master: “The journey is too great for thee, and I am going to refresh you.” Let us not confound physical weariness with spiritual weakness.
“I’m too tired to trust and too tired to pray, 
Said one, as the over-taxed strength gave way. 
The one conscious thought by my mind possessed, 
Is, oh, could I just drop it all and rest.
“Will God forgive me, do you suppose, 
If I go right to sleep as a baby goes, 
Without an asking if I may, 
Without ever trying to trust and pray?
“Will God forgive you? why think, dear heart, 
When language to you was an unknown art, 
Did a mother deny you needed rest, 
Or refuse to pillow your head on her breast?
“Did she let you want when you could not ask? 
Did she set her child an unequal task? 
Or did she cradle you in her arms, 
And then guard your slumber against alarms?
“Ah, how quick was her mother love to see, 
The unconscious yearnings of infancy. 
When you’ve grown too tired to trust and pray, 
When over-wrought nature has quite given way:
“Then just drop it all, and give up to rest, 
As you used to do on a mother’s breast, 
He knows all about it—the dear Lord knows, 
So just go to sleep as a baby goes;
“Without even asking if you may, 
God knows when His child is too tired to pray. 
He judges not solely by uttered prayer, 
He knows when the yearnings of love are there.
“He knows you do pray, He knows you do trust, 
And He knows, too, the limits’ of poor weak dust. 
Oh, the wonderful sympathy of Christ, 
For His chosen ones in that midnight tryst,
“When He bade them sleep and take their rest, 
While on Him the guilt of the whole world pressed—
You’ve given your life up to Him to keep, 
Then don’t be afraid to go right to sleep.”

~L. B. Cowman~

The Pattern for Servanthood

In the world's thinking, great men are the ones with authority, prominence, and power. Though Jesus Christ had all that, He gave it up to become a servant (Isa. 42:1).
Jesus gave Himself completely to fulfill the Father's plan of redemption, even though the beneficiaries—namely, each of us—were undeserving. God is holy and righteous, and He cannot be in the presence of sin. Therefore, He must separate Himself from those who are stained by wrongdoing. That includes all of humanity (Rom. 3:23).
Everybody is born captive to the desires of the flesh (Rom. 6:16-18). When someone claims to be living on his "own terms," he is actually serving whatever his human nature craves. The penalty for that false sense of liberty is death (Rom. 6:23).
Jesus' ultimate act of service was to give His life as a ransom for many (Matt. 20:28). The word describes the price paid to set a slave free—Christ voluntarily purchased our liberation. There was only one way our holy God could remove our guilt yet remain true to His own law: Someone sinless had to pay our sin debt for us.
Jesus' sacrifice spared us the penalty we deserve. Instead, we receive the gift of grace and have been declared no longer guilty. Moreover, we are elevated from slaves to sons and daughters of the Almighty!
Jesus served the Father's purpose faithfully. He gave up His righteousness to carry the weight of all our wickedness—and endured a crushing separation from His Father. To meet our needs, the Savior held nothing of Himself back, and thereby set a powerful example of servanthood for us follow.

~Dr. Charles F. Stanley~

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Humility: True and False

Humility: True and False

For the Christian, humility is absolutely indispensable. Without it there can be no self-knowledge, no repentance, no faith and no salvation.

The promises of God are made to the humble: the proud man by his pride forfeits every blessing promised to the lowly in heart, and from the hand of God he need expect only justice.

We should not forget, however, that there is a pseudo-humility which can scarcely be distinguished from the real thing and which passes commonly among Christians without their being aware that it is false.

True humility is a healthy thing. The humble man accepts the truth about himself. He believes that in his fallen nature dwells no good thing. He acknowledges that apart from God he is nothing, has nothing, knows nothing and can do nothing. But this knowledge does not discourage him, for he knows also that in Christ he is somebody. He knows that he is dearer to God than the apple of His eye and that he can do all things through Christ who strengthens him; that is, he can do all that lies within the will of God for him to do.

Pseudo-humility is in truth only pride with a different face. It is evident in the prayer of the man who condemns himself roundly before God as weak, sinful and foolish but who would angrily resent the same thing being said about him by his wife.

Nor is such a man necessarily hypocritical. The prayer of self-condemnation may be completely sincere, and the defense of self as well, though the two appear to contradict each other. Where they are alike is in their being born of the same parents, self-love being the father and self-trust the mother.

The man filled with high self-regard naturally expects great things of himself and is bitterly disappointed when he fails. The self-regarding Christian has the loftiest moral ideals: he will be the holiest man in his church, if not the saintliest one in his generation. He may talk of total depravity, grace and faith, while all the time he is unconsciously trusting self, promoting self and living for self.

Because he has such noble aspirations, any failure to reach his ideals fills him with disappointment and disgust. Then comes the attack of conscience which he mistakenly believes to be evidence of humility but which is in fact no more than a sour refusal to forgive himself for falling below his own high opinion of himself. A parallel is sometimes found in the person of the proud, ambitious father who hopes to see in his son the kind of man he himself had hoped to be and is not, and who when the son fails to live up to his expectation will not forgive him. The father's grief springs not from his love for his son but from his love of self.

The truly humble man does not expect to find virtue in himself, and when he finds none he is not disappointed. He knows that any good deed he may do is the result of God's working in him, and if it is his own work he knows that it is not good, however good it may appear to be.

When this belief becomes so much a part of a man that it operates as a kind of unconscious reflex he is released from the burden of trying to live up to his own opinion of himself. He can relax and count upon the Spirit to fulfill the moral law within him. The emphasis of his life shifts from self to Christ, where it should have been in the first place, and he is thus set free to serve his generation by the will of God without the thousand hindrances he knew before.

Should such a man fail God in any way he will be sorry and repent, but he will not spend his days castigating himself for his failure. He will say with Brother Lawrence: "I shall never do otherwise if You leave me to myself; it is You who must hinder my falling and mend what is amiss," and after that "give himself no further uneasiness about it."

It is when we read the lives and writings of the saints that false humility becomes particularly active. We read Augustine and know that we have not his intellect, we read Bernard of Clairvaux and feel a heat in his spirit which is not in our own in anything like equal degree; we read the journal of George Whitefield and are forced to confess that compared with him we are mere beginners, spiritual tyros, and that for all our supposed "busy lives" we get little or nothing accomplished. We read the letters of Samuel Rutherford and feel that his love for Christ so far outstrips our own that it would be folly to mention the two in the same breath.

It is then that pseudo-humility goes to work in the name of true humility and brings us to the dust in a welter of self-pity and self-condemnation. Our self-love turns on us angrily and reproaches us in great bitterness for our lack of godliness. Let us be careful here. What we believe to be penitence may easily be a perverted form of envy and nothing more. We may simply envy these mighty men and despair of ever equaling them and imagine we are very saintly for feeling cast down and discouraged.

I have met two classes of Christians: the proud who imaging they are humble and the humble who are afraid they are proud. There should be another class: the self-forgetful who leave the whole thing in the hands of Christ and refuse to waste any time trying to make themselves good. They will reach the goal far ahead of the rest.

~A. W. Tozer~

Monday, August 22, 2016

Worthy Sayings of Great Christians

Worthy Sayings of Great Christians

Accepting Christ as our Saviour, and being baptized and then continuing on in sin and  in our worldly and fun-loving ways is like clawing our way to heaven and hoping our finger nails last long enough to get us there, while all the while, the devil is  grabbing us by the feet and saying, "Come on, you won't have fun up there."

What happened to our Lord and Saviour? Do we not call Him "Lord."

Will we be happy in heaven?

When does obedience and surrender to God's will for us click on?

Will we be happy in heaven?

We will never know true joy and happiness within until we invite the Holy Spirit to guide our lives. And we listen! Will we be happy in heaven if we don't begin the journey toward holiness while we are still on earth.

Will we be happy in heaven?

It takes a love of heaven, our love of holiness, a love of praise and worship to our Creator, God. 

Will we be happy in heaven?

Now is the time to make the most important and lasting decision of our lives. All it takes besides accepting Christ as our Lord and Saviour, being baptized, and then living a life that results in our continual effort to become holy - an effort that lasts as long as we are still on earth.

Will we be happy in heaven?

Christ-like conduct is the end of Christian faith. To get there will take the rest of our time on earth.

Will we be happy in heaven?

What a man "is" is more important than what he "does."

~A. W. Tozer~

God is near "aways." He is Spirit - not visible except to the eye of the soul.

We seem to have a problem understanding that God is always present at all times.

God can be compared to the air we breathe, or water flowing gently across a river, or down a stream. Air is something we know is present because if it were not, we would surely die.

God is larger than His creation. He fills all space, every inch!

Our human minds and sense perception, are so messed up through original sin, that we cannot see God but our soul and heart knows He is near. Our faith can cross the veil and know without doubt that God's presence is all about us, all around us, at all times.

As our faith grows and deepens and we perceive God's presence, we fall down in awe, hushed and wide-eyed as we gaze upon the wonder of Deity. It is a deepening faith that leads us there.

Our "reasoning" and our "intellect" can never prove God's existence because reason and intellect, versus faith are two seperate realms. Reason and intellect are given us at birth and necessary for life on earth. Faith is available to us, through the work of Christ on the Cross and His resurrection. Faith is given us, if we desire to become children of God, because "faith" is our passage into heaven when we leave the earth.

Faith alone is dependent solely on God's character. It does not need reason or intellect or science to support it. It knows its Creator and that is all it needs. 

1 John 4:15-17

(15) Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. (16) And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him. (17) Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world.
New King James Version  

In I John 4, John makes a rather startling statement regarding our union with Christ. It is puzzling in that its practical application is vague to us because we are unfamiliar with the possibilities. Readers usually take a glimpse of it then move on, wondering about its meaning. The words themselves are simple enough, but their very simplicity adds to its confounding nature because, if it truly means what it appears to say, it is too good to be true! Lacking biblical evidence and a logical explanation for reaching such a wonderful conclusion, we pass on.
I John 4:15 says, "Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God." The context is obviously our union with God, as the words "abide" and "in" confirm. Verse 16 continues the thought: "And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him." Abide means "to live," "to continue with," or "to go on with." By substituting these synonyms, the last phrase reads, "He who continues or lives in love, continues or lives in God, and God in him."
The verse emphasizes an ongoing, unbroken, intimate relationship. Nothing can be closer than for one to be in another! Since John defines love in I John 5:3 as keeping the commandments, the word "love" in this verse indicates that it is being reciprocated between God and us, and it is what facilitates the continuance of the union and relationship. These verses in fact confirm what Jesus said on the eve of His crucifixion:
If you love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He will give youanother Helper, that He may abide with you forever. The Spirit of truth, which the worldcannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. (John 14:15-17)
In verse 23, Jesus drops the term "Helper," showing more specifically who would be living in us: "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him." "Keep" indicates that the love of which Jesus speaks is not merely an affection, as keep means "to maintain, continue or carry on." It is therefore active and dynamic.
Has that wondrous promise actually taken place? Are we so united with God, so at one with Him, that Jesus Christ, our Creator, Savior, Redeemer, and High Priest has made us the place of His abode? If so, do our lives reflect that He is there? Are we giving evidence of His presence?
I John 4:17 contains the astounding statement: "Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world."
Peter announces in I Peter 4:17, "For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begin with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?" For those of us "in the church," our judgment began with God's calling and our conversion, and it continues to this very moment. Judgment will come to those living following Christ's return during the Millennium and to those in the second resurrection during the Great White Throne period.
Are we experiencing boldness or confidence (the Greek word can be translated either way; see Hebrews 3:6), or are we ashamed of Jesus Christ? Do we hide what we are? John suggests that we should be living boldly because we have a foundation of confidence that we are under the blood of Jesus Christ and have begun to keep His commandments. Are we ashamed about talking about ourbaptism into the church of God, His Family? Are we fearful about talking about specific doctrines, not to convert others, but simply to state our beliefs?
It is interesting that the Greek word translated "boldness" literally means "freedom of speech." It implies that nothing hinders a person. Love is being perfected in us so that we may be unhindered in our submission to God while under judgment. I John 4:17 then goes on to say, "As He is, so are we in this world." "He" is capitalized. The publishers have done this to draw attention to the fact that this pronoun refers to Christ Himself.
The subject here is not another human being but the Deity, and John is saying we can be bold because we share a commonality with Him. What did He accomplish? Where does He stand in relation to God and to us? How did He live His life? Jesus Christ lived His life confidently and boldly. The apostle is essentially saying that, when God looks at us, He sees us as though we were Jesus Christ! Has anybody ever lived life closer to God than Jesus?

~John W. Ritenbaugh~

Galatians 5:17

(17) For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.
New King James Version   

Sometimes we seem to consist of a whole clamorous mob of desires, like week-old kittens, blind of eye with mouths wide open, mewing to be satisfied. It is as if two voices are in us, arguing, "You shall, you shall not. You ought, you ought not." Does not God want us to set a will above these appetites that cannot be bribed, a reason that cannot be deceived, and a conscience that will be true to God and His standards? We must either control ourselves using the courage, power, and love of God's Spirit, or we will fall to pieces.
Adam and Eve established the pattern for mankind in theGarden of Eden. All of us have followed it, and then, conscience-smitten, we rankle under feelings of weakness. They were tempted by the subtle persuasions of Satan and the appeals of their own appetites for forbidden fruit that looked so good. To this they succumbed, and they sinned, bringing upon themselves the death penalty and much more evil besides. What is the use of appealing to men who cannot govern themselves, whose very disease is that they cannot, whose conscience cries out often both before and after they have done wrong, "Who shall deliver me from this body of death?" It is useless to tell a king whose subjects have overthrown him to rule his kingdom. His kingdom is in full revolt, and he has no soldiers behind him. He is a monarch with no power.
A certain Bishop Butler said, "If conscience had power, as it has authority, it would govern the world." Authority without power is nothing but vanity. Conscience has the authority to guide or accuse, but what good is it if the will is so enfeebled that the passions and desires get the bit between their teeth, trample the conscience, and gallop headlong to the inevitable collision with the ditch?
The solution to this lies in our relationship with Christ:
Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your ownsalvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. (Philippians 2:12-13)
This is the only thing that will give us complete self-control, and it will not fail.
In Luke 11:13, Jesus makes this wonderful promise of strength to those who trust Him:
If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!
Trust Jesus Christ, and ask Him to govern. Ask Him for more of God's Holy Spirit, and He will help you to control yourself. Remember, II Timothy 1:7 says this is a major reason that He gives us His Spirit. He will not fail in what He has promised because the request fits perfectly into God's purpose of creating sons in His image.

~John W. Ritenbaugh~

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Quotes of Our Beloved Lord and Saviour

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.

Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust in me also.

And know that I am with you always; yes, to the end of time.

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.

If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.

But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys to Hades and of Death.

Do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day's own trouble be sufficient for the day.

So I say to you, Ask and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.

Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to cast a stone.

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.

For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and everyone who humbles himself will be exalted.

For what shall it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of his soul?

Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.

As my Father has loved me, so have I loved you.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The Normal Christian Worships God

The Normal Christian Worships God

Hebrews 1:1-4, 8-12

"What kind of a Christian should be considered a normal Christian?"  That question deserves more discussion than it currently is arousing.

Some people claim to be normal Christians when actually they mean they are "nominal" Christians. My old dictionary gives this definition as one of the meanings of the word "nominal":

"Existing in name only; not real or actual; hence so small, slight, or the like, as to be hardly worth the name." 

With that as a definition, those who know they are Christians in name only should never make the pretension of being "normal" Christians.

Is the Lord Jesus Christ your most precious treasure in this world? If so, you can count yourself among normal Christians.

Is the moral beauty which is found only in Jesus Christ constantly drawing you to praise and worship? If so, you are indeed among those whom God's Word identifies as normal, believing, practising Christian.

But I can almost anticipate an objection. If someone is that delighted and that occupied with the person of Jesus Christ, is he or she not an extremist rather than a normal Christian?

Have professing Christians come to that time in their humanistic and secularistic leanings that they can sincerely deny that loving Jesus Christ will all their heart and soul and strength is normal Christianity? We must not be reading and studying the same Bible!

How can anyone profess to be a follower and a disciple of Jesus Christ and not be overwhelmed by His attributes? These divine attributes attest that He is indeed Lord of all, completely worthy of our worship and praise.

As Christians we like to say that we have 'crowned Him Lord of all', but we find it difficult to express what we really mean.

I have always been interested in the phrasing of one of our great hymns:

Lord of all being, throned afar,
Thy glory flames from sun and star;
Center and soul of every sphere,
Yet to each loving heart how near.

The Lord of all being is far more than the Lord of all beings. He is the Lord of all actual existence. He is the Lord of all kinds of being - spiritual being, natural being, physical being. Therefore, when we rightly worship Him we encompass all being.

When young people begin to colmprehend this truth of the highest position and stature in the universe accorded to Jesus Christ as Lord of all, they also begin to sense the importance of His call to a lifetime of loving service.

Many young people give themselves wholly to science and some to technology and some to philosophy or to music or the arts. When we worship the Lord Jesus Christ, however, we embrace and encompass all possible sciences and philosophies and arts. This is our answer to those in other religious backgrounds who are willing to accept that Jesus was a man but who do not accept His claim to be One with the Father as the eternal Son of God.

These other religionists contend that when we give worship to the man Jesus Christ, we are guilty of idolatry, becasue we, too, have confessed that He was a man. We do believe that Jesus came among us as the Son of Man, but we believe the entire record. That record informs us He was the only begotten of the Father. Thus Jesus was also God.

By the mystery of the Incarnation, Jesus Christ was fully united with men and women of the human race. The eternal plan was not to bring God down to man's level but for the Son to take humanity up into God. Thus we are to be joined in the beauty and wonder of the anthropic union - God and man in one.

The synopsis of this unique mystery involving God and man is just this: whatever God is, Christ is. When you are worshipping the Lord Jesus you are not displeasing the Father. Jesus is the Lord of all being, and He is the Lord of all life.

The apostle John has told us plainly in his first epistle that none of us would know anything about the meaning of life if Jesus had not come forth from the Father to show us the true meaning of eternal life. But He came, and as a result, John assures us, 'our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.'

The fact that Christ is now the fountain of life for redeemed and worshipping men and women was expressed simply in the meaningful hymn, 'Jesus Lover of My Soul', by Charles Wesley:

Plenteous grace with Thee is found,
Grace to cover all my sin;
Let the healing streams abound:
Make and keep me pure within.
Thou of life the Fountain art,
Freely let me take of Thee;
Spring Thou up within my heart,
Rise to all eternity.

We know that there are many kinds of life and we may be assured that Jesus is the Lord of all kinds of life. In the spring, we watch the new, eager buds on the trees and shrubs. They are ready to push themselves out and extend themselves into the blooming patternsof floral life.

Soon we expect to see the birds return. I do not forgive the birds too easily - they aresuch fair weather friends. On the dark and stormy days when we need them the most, they are in Florida! But they return each spring, expressing their own kind of lifeas they warble.

We begin to see the rabbits  and the other animals. They have their own kind of life. Christ is Creator and Lord of them all. Beyond these manifestations of life is the intellectual life, for instance - the life of imagination and dreams.

We know something also of the spiritual life. 'God is ... Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth (John 4:24). God's eternal Son is our Lord. He is the Lord of angels and He is the Lord of the cherubim and seraphim. He is the Lord of every kind of life - this same Jesus.

In our day it is important that we find out Jesus Christ is the Lord of all wisdom and the Lord of all righteousness.

The sum total of the deep and eternal wisdom of the ages lies in Jesus Christ as a treasure hidden away.There is no kind of true wisdom that cannot be found within Him. All the deep eternal purposes of God reside in Him because His perfect wisdom enables Him to plan far ahead. All history becomes the slow development of His eternal purposes.

God in His wisdom is making evil men as well as good men,adverse things as well as favorable things work for bringing forth of His glory in the day when all shall be fulfilled in Him.

The Scriptures give us many delightful concepts of the manner in which Christ is the Lord of all righteousness.

Righteousness is not a word that is easily acceptable to lost men and women in a lost world. Someone will say, 'Oh, I will be staisfied if I can just get my hands on a good book dealing with ethics.' Outside of the Word of God, there is no book or treatise that can give us a satisfying answer about righteousness because the only One who is Lord of all righteousness is our Lord Jesus Christ Himself. A sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of  His kingdom. He is the only One in all the universe who has perfectly loved righteousness and hated iniquity.

In the Old Testament period, there was a picture of righteousness in the shadows of the temple system of worship. The high priest was instructed to enter into the Holy of Holies once each year to offer the sacrifices. He wore a mitre on his forehead and the Hebrew words engraved on the mitre would be translated in English, 'Holiness unto the Lord.' Our great High Priest and Mediator is the righteous and holy One - Jesus Christ, our risen Lord. He is not only righteous, He is the Lord of all righteousness.

Then, too, He is the Lord of all mercy. Who else would establish His kingdom upon rebels - rebels whom He himself has redeemed and in whom He has renewed a right spirit?

Think with me about beauty - and this One who is the Lord of all beauty. We know by our own reactionsand enjoyment that God has deposited something within the human being that is capable of understanding and appreciating beauty. God has put within us the love of harmonious forms, the love and appreciation of color and beautiful sounds.

What many of us do not understand is that all beautiful things, so pleasant to the eyes and ears, are only the external counter parts of a deeper and more enduring beauty - that which we call moral beauty.

In relation to Jesus Christ, it has been the uniqueness and the perfection of His moral beauty that has charmed even those who claimed to be His enemies throughout the centuries of history. We do not have any record of Hitler saying anything against the moralperfections of Jesus. One of the great philosophers, Nietzche, himself an instrument of antichristian forces in this world, died finally beating his forehead on the floor and moaning, 'That man Jesus I love. I don't like Paul.'

Nietzche objected to Paul's theology of justification and salvation by faith, but he was strangely moved within by the perfections of moral beauty found in the life and character of Jesus, the Christ, the Lord of all beauty.

We see this perfection in Jesus, but when we look closely at this world system and society, we see the terrible and ugly scars of sin. Sin has obscenely scarred and defaced this world, making it inharmonious and unsymmetrical and ugly, so that even hellis filledwith ugliness.

If you love beautiful things, you had better stay out of hell, for hell will be the quintessence of all that is morally ugly and obscene. Hell will be the ugliest place in all of creation. When rough-talking men say that something is 'as ugly as hell', they employ a proper and valid comparison. Hell is that reality against which all ugliness is measured.

That is a negative picture. Thank God for the positive promise and prospect of heaven's being the place of supreme beauty. Heaven is the place of harmonious numbers. Heaven is the place of loveliness. The One who is all beautiful is there. Heis the Lord of all beauty.

My brother or sister, earth lies between all that is ugly in hell and all that is beautiful in heaven. As long as we are living in this world, we will have to consider the extremes. Light and darkness. Beauty and ugliness. Much that is good and much that is bad. The things that are pleasant and those that are tragic and harsh.

Why? Because of the sense in which our world lies halfway between heaven's beauty and hell's ugliness.

Agaist that background let me report aperson who called me to ask this question: 'Mr. Tozer, do you think a person who is really a Christian can hurt another Christian?'

I was forced to say, "Yes, I think so."

Why is it that a man can be on his knees one day, praying earnestly, and the next day be guilty of offending or injuring another Christian?

I think the answer is because we are halfway between heaven and hell. It is because the shadows and light fall upon us.

The best answer is that we are being saved out of all of this. The Lord of all beauty is saving His people from the ugliness of sin. Our Lord Jesus Christ came to this ugly, selfish, violent world that He might save us and deliver us to a beautiful heaven.

We will never be able to comprehend the awful, terrible price the Lord of all beauty paid to gain our redemption. The prophet said of the Messiah to come, 'There is no beauty [in Him] that we should desire him' (Isaiah 53:2). I do not believe the artists have given a proper concept  of Jesus the man. They paint Him as a pretty man with a tender, feminine face. They ignore the statement that 'there was no beauty that we should desire him.'

Jesus was fully one of us, a strong Man among men. He apparently was so much like His disciples that Judas Iscariot had to make a special arrangement to earn his thirty pieces of silver. 'Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is he' (Mark 14:44).

We may well say that when the eternal Son has taken on the form of a man, only His soul was beautiful. Only when He was suddenly transfigured on the mount did 'his face shine as the sun, and his raiment was while as the light' (Matthew 17:2). Only then did His closest disciples really see how beautiful He was. While He walked among men,  His perfect beauty was veiled.

There is an effective illustrationin the types and figures of the Old Testament reminding us of the adornments of grace and beauty that will makr the believing Body of Christ, the Church, being prepared as the bride awaiting the heavenly Bridegroom. It is the memorablestory of Isaac and Rebekah in Genesis 24. Abraham sent his trusted servant to his former homeland to select a bride for Isaac. Of course, Rebehah passed all the tests which Abraham's servant had posed. There is no statement concerning Rebekah's beauty, but presumably she was beautiful.

The adornment of her beauty consisted of the jewels and the raiment tht came as gifts of love from the bridegroom whom she had not yet seen.

It is a reminder of what God is doing in our midst right now. Abraham typifies God the Father; Isaac,our Lord Jesus Christ, the heavenly Bridegroom. The servant who went with his gifts into the far country to claim a bride for Isaac speaks well of the Holy Spirit, our Teacher and Comforter.

I ask, what is our real beauty as we are called out one by one to take our places by faith in the Body of Christ to await His coming? God has not left this to chance. He givesw us one by one the beauties, the gifts, the graces of the Holy Spirit, typified only imperfectly by those jewels and gems that the servant bestowed on behalf of Isaac. Thus  we are being prepared, and when we meet Jesus Christ as our coming Lord and King, our adornment will be our God-given graces and gifts. By that means it will be possible for us to stand with the One who is the Lord of all beauty!

If you do not know Him and worship Him, if you do not long to reside where He is, if you have never known wonder and ecstasy in your soul because of His crucifixion and resurrection, your claim of Christianity is unfounded. It cannot be related to the true Christian life and experience at all.

Meanwhile, I believe that we as Christians must become willing to allow every ugly thing in our lives to be crucified. We must indeed worship the Lord of all beauty in spirit and in truth. This is not a popular thing, for so many Christians insist that they must be entertained while they are being edified.

I have long been a student of the life and ministry of Albert B. Simpson, founder of the Christian and Missionary Alliance. I pass on to you his yearning that we may become so enamoured of God's good gifts that we fail to worship the Giver.

Dr. Simpson was once invited to preach at a Bible conference in England, on the assigned topic, 'Sanctification.' When he arrived, he discovered that he was to be on the platform with two other Bible teachers. All three of them had been given the same topic - 'Sanctification.'

The first speaker used his time in making clear his position that sanctification meant eradication. 'The sanctified person had has his or her old carnal nature removed, as you would remove a  weed from your garden - eradicated.'

The second speaker arose and set forth his view that sanctification meant supporession of the old nature. 'The "old man" will always be there,' he said, 'and your victory is tosit on the lid and keep him down and beat him at his own game. He must be suppressed.'

That wasnot an easy situation for Dr. Simpson, scheduled to be the third and final speaker.

He told the audience that hecould only present Christ Himself as God's answer. 'Jesus Christ is your Sanctifier, your sanctification, your all and in all. God wants you to get your eyes away from the gifts, the formulas, the techniques. He wants your gaze to be on the Giver, Christ Himself. He is your Lord; worship Him.'

That is a wonderful word for those who would worship rightly.

Once it was the blessing;
Now it is the Lord.

~A. W. Tozer~

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

The Tree Planted By the Waters

The Tree Planted by the Waters

George Everard 

The servant of God is often described in Scripture under the image of a tree bearing good fruit. And under this figure we have his verdure and fruitfulness connected with the River of God's grace. We find it both in Psalm 1, and also in Jeremiah 17.
Before dwelling upon this description, let us take something of a contrast. Hugh Macmillan tells of a remarkable plant that grows in the South American forests. It is a sort of club moss, and in dry seasons becomes somewhat of a traveler. When every particle of moisture is extracted from the soil, it will detach itself from the earth where it has been growing, and curl itself up into a ball. It is then carried away for miles by any strong wind, and remains coiled up until it reaches some marshy land or pool of water. It will then begin slowly to unfold itself, taking root and assuming its former appearance. It may grow long enough to cast its seed on the air, and when its new home becomes dry, as the previous one — it will take to its former unsettled habits, and like a pilgrim go forth to seek the water that it loves.
Truly does the author, who gives this account, compare this plant to a child of the world. Such a one has no fixedness or stability. He goes from scene to scene, from one object to another, seeking for a little passing gratification. Unsettled in spirit, tossed hither and thither by temptation, by the world's allurements, or by every breath changing opinion — finding no permanent spring of hope or consolation, at length he passes away without having ever discovered the secret of true peace and satisfaction.
The prophet Jeremiah uses somewhat of a different image. "This is what the LORD says: Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the LORD. He will be like a bush in the wastelands; he will not see prosperity when it comes. He will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives." Jeremiah 17:5-6
But not so is it with the godly man. He leans on a Divine arm. His heart draws near to a Father in Heaven. His spirit cleaves steadfastly unto God. The name of Jesus is his stay and resting-place. In the darkest night of trouble he makes the Lord his hope, and encourages himself in His faithful care. And how rich is the blessing he inherits! There is no curse for him. He is not like the heath in the desert, or the rolling plant of the forest. He inhabits no parched places or desolate wilds. The very reverse of all this is his portion. "But blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit." Jeremiah 17:7-8
What a variety of blessedness is promised here! All around may be parched and dry. Sin and worldliness and unbelief may wither up all true joy — but he still retains his comfort in God, and grace to confess the Name he loves. He casts his roots deeper and deeper, in stronger faith, in more frequent meditation — and thus drinks in perpetually from the ever-flowing streams of living water. He flourishes as the cedar in Lebanon. He grows rapidly like the palm-tree. His bough is laden with precious fruit. Even in the year of drought — in times of deepest trouble or distress — he is freed from perplexing carefulness, and still honors God by his joyful patience and holy submission to the will of God.
In the life of the patriarch Joseph, we have a forcible illustration of the promise here given. He was ever a man of faith, deriving all his strength from nearness to God. He was "a fruitful bough by a well" (Genesis 49:22). Like a well-rooted tree, he was ever steadfast, rejecting with abhorrence the sin proposed to him, and manfully performing his duty and bearing the fruits of righteousness . . .
in the house of Potiphar,
in the prison, and
in his high position in Egypt.
"His branches ran over the wall." He was a blessing wherever he went. He brought down a blessing on his heathen master, then on Egypt, and then on all his father's house. Never, never did his leaf fade, nor were his branches found without their appropriate fruit.
But how may this blessing be yours? How may you, too, be a tree of righteousness, ever growing, ever bearing fruit through the power of divine grace?
Be sure, the River of Life is near at hand, the waters are flowing on in rich abundance, and if you will follow the directions which the Master gives, you cannot fail of the promised blessing.
Come near, and keep near, to the secret source of all life and fruitfulness.

From first to last, it is a matter of humble trustfulness. The heart of the ungodly man departs from the Lord — the heart of the godly man flees to Him. He runs, he walks, or he creeps, which ever it is — at least, he comes and draws near. Thus must you do. Set your face toward God. Remember His promises and rely upon them. Remember the precious name of
Jesus, and let this give you sure confidence. Remember God's exceeding loving-kindness. Remember His faithfulness and truth. Remembering all this, trust the Lord continually. Trust Him for all that concerns this life. Put every care and sorrow and burden into His hand. Leave all with Him, however gloomy, or painful, or threatening, the prospect may be. Trust Him with all that concerns your spiritual welfare. Trust Him when the heart feels cold and dead, that He will revive and quicken you. Trust Him when you can scarcely utter a word of prayer, believing that His Spirit will again stir up your heart in this as in every other grace. Trust Him always and trust Him forever. So will you keep close to the River, and your soul will be refreshed and comforted.

Be careful about the little things in a Christian life. No one can tell the immense difference that will be made by the use or the neglect of little opportunities — or in the matter of little duties. Remember it is the little fibers of the roots of a tree which drink in the moisture and receive nourishment from the soil, and thus promote its growth and fruitfulness.
Be very careful about these little fibers. Watch over your thoughts. Let them ever cleave to Jesus. Let them be sanctified by the remembrance of all that He is, and of all that He does for His people. Let them be filled with the sweet promises and precepts of Holy Scripture. Ever cherish heavenly aspirations, longing desires, and frequent upliftings of the heart in prayer and praise. Your highest attainments in grace and holiness will be closely connected with every secret prayer which arises to God. Just as the topmost branches of the tree are dependent upon the thin, hair-like roots that the eye can scarcely discern — so all spiritual advancement will depend on the secret walk before our Father in Heaven.

The figure of the tree shows also the importance of firmness and steadfastness in the Christian life. You must seek to be rooted and grounded in the faith, and so established that nothing can move you. Hold fast the faithful Word. Beware of new views and new opinions which are perpetually springing up around you. Stand firm and strong when persecution or reproach comes to try you. Rather suffer loss or exile or death — than dishonor or forsake your Savior.
Only lately I heard of an example of this steadfast spirit which it will be well for us to follow.
The son of a very rich man in Calcutta came to England to educate and qualify himself to practice at the bar in India. Brought up as a strict Hindu, he had no thought of becoming a Christian, though he had some knowledge of the truths of the Gospel. On his way to England a storm arose, and for three days the ship was in imminent danger. During the storm he felt how insecure was his own position; he thought of Christ, and sought Him in earnest prayer. He found spiritual peace and hope; and during his stay in London his convictions were deepened, and he was baptized.
As soon as his father heard of his baptism, he cut off his supplies — and the young man would have been utterly destitute but for a few Christian friends whom God raised up to help him.
After finishing his course he went back to Calcutta, and to his surprise his father received him with open arms. He received from his father every possible kindness, and for a time he thought his father had forgiven him. But it was only a device to draw him back to Hinduism. After about a week his father spoke to him on the subject. He told him that if he would give up Christianity, he would at once make over to him all his property. He need not practice at the bar, but might live in every possible comfort and luxury.
But the young man was not to be moved. Neither persuasions nor promises could turn him from his purpose. So he said to his father, "Not for all you have done for me, or for all you have now promised me, nor for your love, which I value most of all — dare I deny the Savior who has loved me."
Then said the father, "If this be so, you are no longer my son, nor am I your father. Begone! and never let me see your face again!"
So, without a shilling of his own, he had to go to another city and seek his living, having given up all for Christ's sake.
Another word of guidance I would give you: Endeavor to make progress. Cultivate growth in every direction. Aim at increase in every Christian virtue.
In dependence on God's grace, let there be the downward growth — the roots going deeper into the soil. Be clothed with humility. Follow Him who was meek and lowly in heart. Keep near the Savior's footstool. Strive to grow in the knowledge of your sin and unworthiness. The sense of sin ever deepens with growth in holiness, because God's light shines in more brightly, and thus discovers the evil that is in us.
Then also grow in steadfastness. As the roots of a tree go deeper into the soil, it becomes more firmly fixed, so that the winds and storms can the less move it. Thus be firm and immovable, rooted and grounded in the truth as it is in Jesus. Do not be swayed by the current of human opinion. Do not take your views from the Newspaper, or the last Magazine. Rather, hold fast by the faithful Word, being assured that not one thing has failed or will fail of all that the Lord has spoken.
Let there also be the upward growth. Like the tree shooting higher and higher, ever tending upward, so let it be with your heart. Set your affection on things above. Get nearer and closer in true fellowship with the Father and the Son. Tend evermore in true holiness toward the light of the Sun of Righteousness. Let your whole life be filled with joy and praise and thankfulness to Him.
Let there also be growth in the breadth and circumference of the tree. I mean, let the Christian grow in largeness of heart, in wide-spreading sympathies, in holy charity, in efforts to spread everywhere the savor of Christ's name. Wherever God opens to you a door of usefulness, by which you can enter without neglect of other duties — don't hold back. By intercessory prayer, by free-handed gifts, by a book given to someone going into a foreign land — your influence for good may spread far and wide, and perhaps hereafter the most precious jewels in your crown will have been won in lands you have never seen.
Above all, let your growth and fruitfulness never cease. Cleave to the Lord, and He will never fail you. He will give "more grace," and thus you shall bear more fruit. "He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers." Psalm 1:3
Oh fill me with Your fullness, Lord,
Until my very heart overflow
In kindling thought and glowing word,
Your love to tell, Your praise to show.
Oh use me, Lord, use even me,
Just as You will, and when and where,
Until Your blessed face I see,
Your rest, Your joy, Your glory share.